Do Spirituality & Prayer Make Women More Promiscuous?

A new study found that sexually satisfied women had better "wellbeing" and "vitality" then less satisfied ones. But another study showed that women's spirituality was linked with having lots of unprotected sex.

The first study, conducted on 295 Australian women between the ages of 20 and 65, found "that women who were sexually dissatisfied had lower wellbeing and lower vitality," according to lead study author Dr. Sonia Davison. Davison says, "This finding highlights the importance of addressing these areas as an essential part of women's health care, because women may be uncomfortable discussing these issues with their doctor." Interestingly, the women who were dissatisfied with their sex lives weren't necessarily having less sex than satisfied ones. According to the study's EurekAlert press release,

The most commonly reported sexual problems in the area of consensual sexuality in women relate to sexual desire and interest, pleasure and satisfaction, and for most women these are part of the overall sexual experience, and are inextricably related. In contrast to studies of interventions for male erectile dysfunction, benefit of treatment in women with sexual dysfunction cannot be measured simply by the frequency of sexual events, as women frequently continue to be sexually active despite a high level of sexual dissatisfaction.

"Sexual events" makes sex sound like the Olympics, and it's not a big surprise that women's "vitality" isn't boosted by having a bunch of sex they're not into. The study did make me curious about men, though. Although maybe "frequency of sexual events" is a good measure of erectile function, I doubt it's a perfect measure of male sexual satisfaction. We already know that the stereotype of men wanting sex all the time isn't necessarily based in fact — might it also be true that men care about "sexual desire and interest, pleasure and satisfaction," and not just how often they can stick it in something? Just a thought.

The second study, meanwhile, looked at 353 undergraduates and found that women who were spiritual had more sex with more partners, and were less likely to use condoms. Researchers measured spirituality using something called the Spiritual Transcendence Scale, which measures qualities like prayer fulfillment, universality, and connectedness. Connectedness appeared to have the biggest effect on sex. Researcher Jessica Burris says,

Believing one is intimately tied to other human beings and that interconnectedness and harmony are indispensible may lead one to believe sexual intimacy possesses a divine or transcendent quality in itself. In fact, ascribing sacred qualities to sex has been positively associated with positive affective reactions to sex, frequency of sex, and number of sexual partners among university students.

Being spiritual apparently had a greater effect on sexual behavior than alcohol use, impulsivity, or even religion. And researchers felt that the effects were independent of other personality traits, like openness. While an earlier study showed that spiritual practices like mindfulness and yoga could improve women's sex lives, this study implies that spirituality's influence on number of partners and condom use might promote the spread of STDs. Burris says, "Spirituality, at least for women, could be considered a risk factor."

Men who were spiritual, by contrast, tended to have less sex. According to Sally Law's LiveScience writeup of the study, "The researchers figure men might not view spirituality as sexual because they biologically don't think of sex as a gateway to emotional intimacy." I'm not sure if this confusing language ("they biologically don't think?") owes more to Law or to Burris and her co-authors, but it would be nice if coverage of sex research didn't paint men as emotionless thrusting machines. The male orgasm may not be elusive, but it would still be interesting to see more research into men's sexual satisfaction and, yes, feelings. Without it, we just keep getting the same message — that women are weird and complicated, while dudes just want their dicks sucked. Or, you know, accessorized with neckties.

Better Sex Linked To Good Health For Women [Telegraph]
Sexually Satisfied Women Have Better General Well-Being And More Vitality [EurekAlert]
Spiritual Women Have More Sex [LiveScience]